Great Basilica, Plovdiv

Coordinates: 42°08′39″N 24°45′10″E / 42.144118°N 24.752732°E / 42.144118; 24.752732

Bishop Basilica of Philippopolis

great basilica plovdiv

The bishop basilica of Philippopolis
Map of Plovdiv city center
Bishop basilica
Shown within Plovdiv City Center
Location Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Coordinates 42°08′39″N 24°45′10″E / 42.144118°N 24.752732°E / 42.144118; 24.752732
Type Basilica
Length 86.4 m
Width 38.5 m
Material bricks, marble
Founded The beginning of the 5th century AD
Abandoned The end of 6th century AD
Periods Roman Empire
Site notes
Excavation dates 1982-1985, 2015-2019
Archaeologists Elena Kesyakova
Condition In restoration
Ownership Plovdiv Municipality
Part of a series on the ancient city of
Buildings and structures
Related topics
  History  Timeline

The Bishop Basilica of Philippopolis (Bulgarian: Филипополска голяма базилика, Golyama bazilika na Filipopol) is a church from the late antique era in Plovdiv, built in the beginning of the 5th century AD. It is the largest early-Christian temple discovered in Bulgaria and one of the largest from that period on the Balkans.[1][2] The basilica has three naves with an apse situated at the East end of the central nave. The southern and part of the central nave are revealed. The Great Basilica is one of the most interesting cultural heritage sites in Plovdiv.


The great basilica is located in the central part of Plovdiv, near the 19th century Roman Catholic St Ludvig cathedral and Maria Luiza blvd.

The basilica

The Great basilica of Philippopolis was built in the beginning of the 5th century probably over an earlier building with a similar plan which covered the space for two insulae (quarters defined by four perpendicular streets). It was demolished and abandoned, probably in 577, when 100,000 Slavs stormed the Balkans. In the Middle Ages, local people used its remains as a source for ready-made building material.[3]

The dimensions of the basilica are extremely large for that period. The overall length of the basilica is 86.30 m and its width – 38.50 m. The naves are separated by 14 supporting posts: every two marble columns were followed by one masonry pillar.[4] It has three naves with an apse situated at the East end of the central nave. There was an atrium surrounded by a colonnade on three sides to the West.[1]

The large size of the building, the rich decoration of mosaics and the specifics in the altar area organisation give reason to suppose that the building most probably was the Episcopal basilica. Only the South and part of the central nave are discovered and researched so far. The rest still lies under the nearby road connection Maria Luiza blvd. and Tsar Boris III Obedinitel blvd. In 2016 excavations works begun with the aim to discover the North nave of the basilica.

The most interesting foundings at the Basilica are the mosaics that covered the floor. They spread across an area of 700 sq.m revealing extremely interesting motives, without analogue in Bulgarian lands. The floors were covered with intricate mosaics with geometrical designs; eternal knots symbols; vases springing the water of eternal life; and an astonishing array of birds, the early-Christian symbols of pious souls. There is a difference in the composition and motives of the mosaics in the Southern and central naves, suggesting that most probably they were made by different craftsmen.[5]

Excavation and restoration

The remains of the basilica were discovered during the construction of an underpass in the mid-1980s. Archeologists surveyed the south nave, part of the central nave, the apse and a portion of the atrium. The mosaics were removed to the Plovdiv Archaeological Museum.

On 26 September 2014 a project was for restoration and conservation of the basilica was peresented, according to which the remains of the ancient church will become a museum complex.

In 2016, excavations in the North part of the basilica began in order to reveal the Northern nave of the basilica which was hidden until that moment.



  1. 1 2 Kesyakova, Elena; Pizhev A.; Shivachev S.; Petrova N. (1999). A Book for Plovdiv. Plovdiv: Polygraph. pp. 54–57. ISBN 954-9529-27-4.
  2. (in Bulgarian) The great basilica in Plovdiv
  3. History of the bishop basilica
  4. The great basilica of Philippopolis
  5. The mosaics in the basilica

External links

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